View From the Road

View From the Road
View from the Road: The Big Goodbye

John Funk | 5 Jul 2010 21:00
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"All right," you might be saying right now, "But that's just MMOGs. I don't play those games." While it probably is a more powerful concept when applied to the worlds of massively multiplayer games thanks to the persistent worlds - and thanks to the fact that for many, MMOGs are far closer to lifestyles than mere hobbies - I don't think that it is just these games.

Imagine if Valve suddenly decided that it would be giving a huge destructive overhaul to the Team Fortress 2 maps that people have been growing fond of since 2007. The sniper balconies in 2fort? Gone. The chokepoints and nooks for sentry guns in Badwater Basin? Yanked 'em right out. All those spots that you use as a Spy to hide out of sight as your cloak recharges? They're not there anymore.

Now, imagine if you couldn't just go to another server running the classic maps - they were gone for good. Wouldn't you feel strange, having these familiar places and objects that you were used to suddenly change or even disappear completely? It doesn't even have to be a multiplayer game: Say that Rockstar developed new GTA4 DLC that took place in a post-apocalyptic version of the Liberty City that had been so well-realized in the original game. Niko Bellic's favorite hangouts are now rubble. The streets you careened down in the middle of an auto chase are now cracked and littered with the husks of burnt-out cars.

There's no question that for many gamers, there would be a significant sense of loss and regret, no matter how cool the new DLC was. It's the same reason that Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland is so memorable and evocative - it's similar enough to be recognizable, but any familiarity is overshadowed by the fact that what was once familiar is now gone. The feeling of "this thing that I loved is now different and I can't ever go back" is a powerful emotion, whether it's being portrayed in a videogame or a film - and whether the world being destroyed is real or fictional.

These are worlds in which we spend hours. Would you make fun of someone who complained that their favorite bar was being torn down or their favorite little restaurant was now an IHOP? Of course not, because these are tangible real-world places imbued with a sense of identity. But we spend just as much time in these fictional locales as we ever do in any one place at real life.

The sense of identity is real, even if the place is not, and it's going away. It may be for the better, but that doesn't mean we can't miss what'll be gone.

John Funk can't decide if he wants to check out the new max-level content or reroll to see how everything else changed.

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